Yesterday saw the true beginning of our hospital, with the laying of the foundation stone at the site and a celebration afterwards. And even though many of our followers are based in India, I shall write from an English person's perspective today, because I know that many of our overseas readers will be as ignorant as me in terms of the Indian traditions that were followed. This gives me the chance to tell all of you what actually happened at the ceremony.
First there was a "puja" (prayer ceremony) delivered by the pundits, who you will see in the photographs here. But you should know that Dr Meetu Babel had spent many hours earlier in the weeks gathering together all the items that the pundits needed for this ceremony. The original list read like a shopping list for the larder, with items like herbs, milk, yoghurt fruit, honey, but it was the extra items like cow's urine that made this list surprising!
At the appointed time, the puja began, with the pundits chanting prayers and telling Deepak and Meetu when to scatter various items including rice, rose petals and water onto the prayer table in front of them. (The top picture shows Deepak and me with pundits before the ceremony).
Then came the blessing of the five stones (above right) with various offerings and we were then asked to climb down into the large pit that had been prepared, so that a further ceremony could be performed to prepare to lay the foundation stone. Deepak and I are pictured below in the pit with the pundits, and at appropriate moments in the ceremony the five stones were passed down to bottom of the pit and placed on top of a concoction of milk, curd, grass and, most importantly, a token representing the Hindu Snake God - "Naag Devta".
All the invited guests were present for the ceremony and when it was over, I planted a tree to commemorate my father. Afterwards we went to the village temple for lunch. But more of this tomorrow, because I am leaving on an overnight train for Delhi shortly to meet my son Hamish who's arriving from Nepal.